One of the experiments underway in KE is Ulmer’s revision of his career project, to receive it as a student of his own project, to notice the pattern and projection, to be his own Gerald Holton (since that is what egents must be). An element in that project is Disaster, understood literally, but then adopted as a figure of a fundamental intuition. Konsult as pedagogy invites egents to consider this intuition. It began formally in a seminar, Spring 2009, using heuretics to develop flash reason as a deliberative rhetoric for an Internet civic sphere. Taking up a theme central to Electronic Monuments in order to push further along the path opened there, the Theory of the CATTt was Blanchot’s Writing of the Disaster, which set the terms of the experiment, as expressed in this paraphrase: What escapes all that can be said, is what must be said. The challenge to the students was to generate a poetics of the unsayable, since this is the dimension of the disaster that is not accessible to STEM disciplines.
The method is counterintuitive, in that egents turn away from the historical catastrophe, in order to access their peculiar power. The instructions derived from the text are to compose a figure by juxtaposing a childhood memory with a collective event (a disaster). Blanchot calls this memory a primal scene. It represents an early if not first experience of self-awareness of the human condition – an existential intuition. The corresponding event for Blanchot is the Holocaust.
The figure reproduces in contemporary singular form a correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm. It makes explicit the two dimensions treated in tragedy as Atê (personal blindness producing collective catastrophe). The figure is composed in first person, middle voice, seeking in the documentation of the event an objective correlative for the feeling of the memory. This feeling (affect percept) is the experiential basis of electrate intelligence, to be augmented in the digital prosthesis. The nature and function of the figure will be developed in several posts. Here is Blanchot’s primal scene.
(A primal scene?) You who live later, close to a heart that beats no more, suppose, suppose this: the child – is he seven years old, or eight perhaps? – standing by the window, drawing the curtain and, through the pane, looking. What he sees: the garden, the wintry trees, the wall of a house. Though he sees, no doubt in a child’s way, his play space, he grows weary and slowly looks up toward the ordinary sky, with clouds, grey light – pallid daylight without depth.
What happens then: the sky, the same sky, suddenly open, absolutely black and absolutely empty, revealing (as though the pane had broken) such an absence that all has since always and forevermore been lost therein – so lost that therein is affirmed and dissolved the vertiginous knowledge that nothing is what there is, and first of all nothing beyond. The unexpected aspect of this scene (its interminable feature) is the feeling of happiness that straightaway submerges the child, the ravaging joy to which he can bear witness only by tears, an endless flood of tears. He is thought to suffer a childish sorrow; attempts are made to console him. He says nothing. He will live henceforth in the secret. He will weep no more. (Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster).